Thursday, October 4, 2012

Shopping Out of the Pantry: My Time- & Money-Saving Experiment

* Exercise activity for Oct. 3: Walking to pick the boy up from school - 10 blocks, 20 minutes. *

 About two to three years ago, I saw a story about a young couple trying to save money and get out of debt. They kept track of how much they were spending on eating out, take-out food, "convenience" foods, and how much food they were throwing away after it expired because they forgot about it. Then they decided they would only shop out of their own pantry, until the pantry was empty. A drastic way to save money and become more aware of what you're eating, but effective.

 I thought of this story yesterday, when I was trying to decide what to make for dinner. I didn't have anything in mind, and I didn't feel like going to the grocery store, so I decided to see what I could create out of what I already had. In the process, I discovered:
   1) I really need to set aside a half hour or so to organize the pantry - it starts out orderly, but after a few weeks of stuff being moved around and shoved in wherever it will fit, gets a bit out of hand.
   2) Once I organize and inventory what I have, I can save some money by getting creative like that couple did.

 I'm not going to go to their extreme (I mean, what did they do for perishables? Fresh milk, bread and produce are necessities around here) but I can definitely do better than I have been. As proof, I present last night's dinner: Taco Pizza.

 I already had a 1 lb. roll of ground beef, and tortillas I bought with no plan for their use because they were on sale really cheap. I browned the ground beef, drained it, then added from the pantry a can of petite diced tomatoes and a can of pinto beans. For flavoring, I dug into our massive stash of Taco Bell sauce packets. (You know you have one of these too - everyone within 10 miles of a Taco Bell does.)

 While everything simmered together, I sprayed a pizza pan with non-stick spray and laid out the bottom tortilla. I used a slotted spoon to layer the ground beef mixture on the tortilla, sprinkled on some shredded cheese, and put on the top tortilla. On top went two more sauce packets and more shredded cheese. Then into the oven at 250 degrees until the cheese melted. Garnish with shredded lettuce, avocado, black olives, or whatever you have on hand.  I made two pizzas, and had enough leftover filling for a couple of small burritos for lunch the next day.

 The verdict on my money-saving experiment: two "yummy"s and one "meh" (the boy is hard to please, and doesn't care for beans so much.)


  1. ha. i have a drawer full of taco bell packets.

    1. Everyone does. You might start out with just two or three, but I think they breed in the back of the drawer...

  2. I love it! Since we lost all our income, we eat according to supermarket sales. If chickens are $.88/lb, we eat chickens. If we find beef for under $3/lb, we celebrate. If we find catfish nuggets for $1.99/lb, we buy 15 pounds of it and put it in the freezer. Not eating out at all has made this early forced retirement quite livable.

    1. That's how I shop, too. I can't remember the last time I bought a meat product that wasn't on sale. I don't buy ANYTHING that's not on sale, if I can help it.